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Comedy Central's Digman! is Another Gem from The Lonely Island

Fellow goofballs and fans of irreverent adventure searching for the next “Rick and Morty”-like rush should keep an eye out for the new animated series “Digman!”, premiering on Comedy Central. Like “Rick and Morty” but set in the world of celebrity archaeologists and without problematic behind-the-scenes stories, “Digman!” deliriously blitzes through adventures worldwide, with screaming characters speaking fast so that the title makes sense. (A few more exclamation points would have been apt.) Though “Digman!” has a way to go before receiving adult animated comedy prestige, its first four episodes show a lot of promise for this endeavor from some of the funniest people creating TV history today. 

Andy Samberg co-created the show with Neil Campbell (the two previously collaborated on “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”), and the writing is well within Samberg’s comedic output with his trio The Lonely Island (Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone are executive producers here). Like “Hot Rod” did for delusional stunt people and “Popstar: Never Stop Popping” did for delusional pop stars, this one builds upon the even more absurd, less familiar trope of hot-shot archaeologists. “Digman!” has the bonus of being animated and therefore boundless, and animation production company Titmouse answers to the call for ridiculousness with a blockbuster's scope with a religious Yeti society, a brief musical number about confetti, and a “Top Gun” parody to best them all. 

Samberg’s voice work as Rip Digman is one of the show’s more self-pleasing winks, with Samberg returning to his drawling impression of “National Treasure”’s Nicolas Cage and mixing it with rapid-fire line delivery. For a series with roughly a million jokes per minute, mostly from the dialogue, more of them hit than miss. Take this smart-but-dumb gold nugget from the pilot: “The Holy Grail, the term people use to describe the coolest thing in every other profession, is that thing in archaeology.” He says that while at the lowest point of his life, teaching. 

“Digman!” begins in what Samberg’s character considers his glory days. The year is 2011, and Digman is rushing down an erupting volcanic mountain with a new artifact in hand. Soon enough, his wife Bella (Melissa Fumero) and his trusted assistant Zane (Guz Khan) end up breaking from his life in traumatic ways, but not before a joke is made about someone looking forward to seeing “The Artist.” Jump ahead to the present, and Digman is a sloppy obscurity among his dashing, smug peers, or as they are referred to in singular here, as an “Arky.” Jolted from his stupor, Digman begins working again, this time with a new assistant Saltine (Mitra Jouhari), his macho helicopter pilot Swooper (Tim Robinson), unamused secretary Agatha (Dale Soules), and a hyperactive fast loris (as opposed to a slow loris). The latter character becomes a mascot for the show—cute, chaotic, and ravenous for the next bit of action. 

Sometimes the series can be too hyperactive on a joke that runs out of amusement (the show’s sugar rush crashes with a subplot about a holy AI system, though the intent is amusing). In other cases, it can be too quaint with its adventure-of-the-week style, as if “Digman!” were already getting cozy with a formula. But the just-right episodes are equal in where-did-that-come-from jokes and inventive world-building, treated with a careful amount of left-turns and surprising new characters (the fellow archaeologists are usually not the funniest people in an episode). The first and fourth episodes are the best at outsmarting fast comedy’s numbing effect. 

It’s also wise to use striking voices only so much, like Tim Robinson of “I Think You Should Leave,” whose guttural screech has to be one of the best comedic facets on TV right now. “Digman!” lets its people, places, and things pop and tactfully mixes adventures about various Holy Grails with surprise guests like Clancy Brown, Jason Schwartzman, Lauren Lapkus, Marc Evan Jackson, Harvey Guillén, Tim Meadows, Daniel Radcliffe, Jane Lynch, Zehra Fazal, Kerri Kenney-Silver, Maya Rudolph, and more. 

The table reads must have been a blast for this production, even for the less memorable adventures. Getting to see these scripts as a stoner’s Saturday afternoon cartoon makes “Digman!” even more of a gem. 

Four episodes were screened for review. Digman! premieres on Comedy Central on March 22nd.

Nick Allen

Nick Allen is the former Senior Editor at RogerEbert.com and a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association.

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